CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The number of coal-mining jobs in West Virginia dropped by nearly 900 during the third quarter of the year but remained larger than when the Obama administration began a series of new regulatory initiatives, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Labor.
West Virginia's coal employment dropped to about 22,500 during the period from July to September, according to the most recent figures reported by coal companies to the department's Mine Safety and Health Administration.
The numbers show the continued impacts of coalfield layoffs fueled by a variety of factors, but also indicate mining employment remains at higher levels that when the Obama administration began a series of regulatory actions to reduce coal's environmental impacts.
Nationwide, coal employment dropped 5 percent during the quarter but remained higher than at the start of the recession in 2007 and than when a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency crackdown on strip-mining permits began in early 2009.
The regular quarterly release of the MSHA data comes at the end of a heated and close presidential race in which coal issues played a significant role, especially in relatively small rural communities in the swing states of Ohio and Virginia.
Republican Mitt Romney worked those areas hard, campaigning on his promise to loosen Obama's rules on the industry.
But while coal company officials and regional political leaders blamed coal's problems on the Obama administration, the number of miners working in Appalachian actually rose during the first three years of Obama's term.